plural noun
the state of being behind or late, especially in the fulfillment of a duty, promise, obligation, or the like: Many homeowners have fallen into arrears.
Sometimes, arrear. something overdue in payment; a debt that remains unpaid: Those countries that have paid their arrears may be granted additional loans.
in arrears, behind or late, especially in payment: She was three months in arrears on her mortgage and credit card payments. Also, Chiefly Law, in arrear.

1300–50; noun use of arrear (adv., now obsolete), Middle English arere behind < Middle FrenchLatin ad retrō. See ad-, retro-

arrearage, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
arrears (əˈrɪəz)
1.  (sometimes singular) Also called: arrearage something outstanding or owed
2.  in arrears, in arrear late in paying a debt or meeting an obligation
[C18: from obsolete arrear (adv) behindhand, from Old French arere, from Medieval Latin adretrō, from Latin ad to + retrō backwards]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

early 14c., from O.Fr. ariere "behind, backward," from V.L. *ad retro, from L. ad "to" + retro "behind." Meaning "balance due" dates from mid-15c.; phrase in arrears first recorded 1620, but in arrearages is from late 14c.

mid-14c., "in times past;" see arrears. Meaning "behind in duties or payments" is from 1620s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
He noted it's perfectly legal to be in arrear of taxes as long as they eventually pay them.
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